Author Archives: elainebvickers

About elainebvickers

Middle grade author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, Fall 2016), college chemistry teacher, mom of 3.

The Surreal, the Sublime, and the Journey Itself

The time has come for me to leave the Emu nest, and I’d like to end my time here with three quick vignettes:

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First, the surreal. Many Emus use their introductory post to talk about getting The Call (wherein their agent tells them they have a book deal). I decided to save my story of The Call for my farewell post, not knowing that the post would appear exactly two years after that life-changing day. So here’s my story:

On December 5, 2014, I had been on submission for almost two years with three different manuscripts, and I had convinced myself that I loved writing for writing’s sake and it was okay if I was the person who always came close but never quite got a book deal. Some days I even believed this. I had taken a full time teaching job partly because I needed to feel like I was contributing again, rather than just writing stories that would likely never find readers. On that fateful Friday, I taught my last lectures of fall semester, came home, and made myself a plate of nachos as a reward. (This is literally the first time since high school that I had eaten nachos as an after-school snack.) I had just sat down when my seven-year-old daughter came running in with my phone.

“Mom,” she said. “It says it’s..Ammi-Joan Paquette?” (She would have known who was calling if it had just said “Joan.” 🙂

I had hoped for that call for so long that the hope had faded, almost entirely away. I’d dreamed that dream so long that it seemed impossible for The Call to be anything other than a dream, an oasis on the horizon that recedes with every step. It was truly surreal. And yet, there I was, crying into my nachos. It happened, folks.

The second story is of the sublime. I had many teachers who inspired and nurtured me and helped me grow, but none more than my first grade teacher, Kathryn Ipson. She helped me write and illustrate my first story, The Big Bad Pig. She sensed that I needed a challenge and got a computer in our classroom (at a time when nobody had a computer in the classroom), taught me to type, and set me free. We stayed in touch through the years, and when I visited her as a college student and told her my plans to get a PhD and become a professor, she said, “That’s wonderful. The most important thing is to find a job where you’re helping people.” That one statement lingers with me still, and although it didn’t change my professional plans, it changed my priorities.

On October 18, my first book, Like Magic, was published. I had a launch party at our local independent bookstore, and at times the line snaked to the back of the store. The most accurate (if cliched) way to describe that night is a dream come true. But perhaps the most sublime and wonderful moment of that night was when the crowd parted and there was Mrs. Ipson, standing in line with a copy of the book. I showed her her name in the acknowledgments. We hugged and cried a little. A few days later, Mrs. Ipson found me on Facebook and said that she had finished reading and she expected my book would win the Newbery. Okay, I suspect it won’t, but to have someone who has believed since I was very small that I was capable of anything–someone who continues to believe it–well, that is incredibly meaningful.

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Mrs. Ipson finds her name in the acknowledgments of Like Magic (photo by Brooke MacNaughtan)

There have been other moments that have been almost this magical–many, in fact. Signing books in the gorgeous Salt Lake City Library, where my characters spend much of the story. Receiving my first starred review. Finding out that the book had sold in Scandinavia, and that this story was about to find its way into other lands and languages. Meeting and hearing from bright and diverse readers who have connected with the story. Beautiful, unforgettable moments.

If you’re a writer, and you don’t give up, you will have these moments too–even if it feels like you will always be stuck in the spot where you are right now. But the more I think about this whole debut experience, the more moments of joy I see in the journey itself. Evenings gathered with my critique partners. Time spent in workshops when I’m taught something that sparks an idea inside me. Moments at the computer, alone with my characters, when I struggle and struggle and finally get that scene or sentence just right.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just like people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is just like an old time rail journey … delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

-Jenkin Lloyd Jones

The last few years have been unforgettable and exhausting, yet I can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend. Thank you, thank you, to the Emus and to all who have shared this journey with me. And for all of us, no matter what stage of the expedition, may we find joy and be truly thankful for the ride.


profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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Filed under Advice, Book Launch, Dreams Come True, Farewell, Happiness, Patience, The Call, Uncategorized, waiting

FINDING PERFECT Launch Week: Interview with Agent Tricia Lawrence

We’re continuing the launch of Elly Swartz’s touching and heartfelt Finding Perfect. Up today, an interview with Elly’s agent, EMLA’s own Tricia Lawrence.

ellyandtrishWelcome, Trish! First question: How did you and Elly find each other?

Elly was a referral from my colleague and fellow agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette.

What was it about FINDING PERFECT that grabbed your attention?

Elly has a very smooth and heartfelt writing style. I felt as if I was in capable hands. The main character, Molly, drew me in right away. She still draws me in on the nth reading. I always fall right back into the story each time too! (And I know what happens!)

Do you have a favorite line or scene from the book? A favorite character?

I think it’s at the end when everyone really comes together to support Molly. It’s this cathartic moment that I can’t get enough of. I also adore Molly’s friends and family. They all feel so real to me.

finding-perfectIs there anything else we should know about Elly or her awesome debut?

Elly is incredible. I am so lucky to be working with such a professional. She’s kind, extremely hardworking, and honest about everything. I’m delighted to see her emails in my inbox, so proud of her as her writing has only gotten stronger (stay tuned!), and I cannot wait to see how Molly’s story helps readers, impacts lives, and inspires all of us to be better, to do better. It’s a great week this week, especially being OCD awareness week, for Molly, Elly, and FINDING PERFECT to be introduced to the world. I’m so proud of Elly and Molly. I think they have great lives ahead of them. 😉 Really glad to be a part of both.

Thank you, Trish! And be sure to check out Finding Perfect, available now at these fine retailers (and your local library!)

Amazon               Barnes and Noble               Indiebound

 

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Filed under Book Launch, Interviews, Launch, Uncategorized

Spiral Review, Emu Style

My kids’ school district has adopted a new math program, and the majority of parents seem to loathe it. Meanwhile, I sit at home, harboring my own secret feelings, which I can sum up in three words:

I love it.

I am an educator and something of a math nerd, and I think overall, the new program does a fantastic job. One of my very favorite things about the homework my kids bring home (and in all honesty, I love math homework) is that on the back of every sheet, there is a section called Spiral Review.

The idea is this: We don’t learn best in a linear fashion. In math or writing or life in general, we learn best when we spiral back to the things we’ve learned before, and we approach them with a broader view of the world, a greater amount of experience, and new levels of understanding.

In this spirit, I’ve combed the Emu’s Debuts archives (with a little help from my fellow Emus) and come up with my own Spiral Review of some of the most poignant and meaningful posts from years of reading this blog.

The list could have been much longer, but here are a few favorites worth turning our attention toward again:

THE PIT OF DESPAIR by Terry Pierce

Want to Help an Author Out? It’s Pretty Easy! by Pat Zietlow Miller

Being Brave: A Challenge for Writers in General and Human Beings in Particular by Christine Hayes

Luciferadi Meeps Goodbye by Adi Rule

And So Our Story Begins . . . by Amy Finnegan

And finally, Nerve: Truth or Dare…The Videos, featuring many Emu emeriti. As Andrea Wang says, “Because who doesn’t love silly videos that make us smile? And how cool is it that former nest-mate Jeanne Ryan’s book, NERVE, which inspired all those daring EMU videos, is now a movie?! I may not be brave enough to do interpretive dance or compose an ode to a doorknob, but this post always encourages me to break out of my shell and dare to do something different.” (My personal favorite part is Tara Dairman eating the giant chocolate cake.)

What favorite posts, here or elsewhere, do you turn to for your own spiral reviews? What posts continue to teach and inspire you each time you read them?


profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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Filed under Advice, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Back to School, Emu Style

As a teacher and a mom, there are three words that describe this time of year for me: Back to School. There are so many great things associated with those words: freshly-sharpened pencils, blank pages, and a seemingly limitless opportunity to learn and grow. There’s a beautiful sense of a story just beginning.

It’s a little like what we experience as writers each time we start a new project, isn’t it?

With that in mind, and because every season of life calls for new books to be read, I asked the Emu experts to tell me their favorite Back to School stories. Here are their responses:

rubyHayley Barrett: I love RUBY THE COPYCAT by the brilliant Peggy Rathmann. The conflict is real as Ruby, a delightfully idiosyncratic little girl, imitates her very tolerant classmate Angela. With encouragement, Ruby learns to be her own wonderful self, and the resolution is perfectly hop-py.

Darcey Rosenblatt: My new favorite is Elizabeth Shreeve’s CAPTAIN FREDDY COUNTS DOWN TO SCHOOL. Freddy overcomes his kindergarten fears through his imagined space adventures. Sweet story and beautiful illustrations.captain freddy

Jason Gallaher: Audrey Vernick’s FIRST GRADE DROPOUT is amazing!! I love how Audrey captures the fear of going to full-time school but with such a humorous voice. She better never dropout of writing.

Elly Swartz: When my boys were little, our favorites were the Wayside School books by Louis Sachar and THE SECRET SHORTCUT by Mark Teague. These books captured my boys’ imagination and sense of adventure. My new favorites are FIRST GRADE DROPOUT by Audrey Vernick and SOPHIE’S SQUASH GO TO SCHOOL by Pat Zietlow Miller.

squash schoolKatie Slivensky: It’s more family than school focused, but TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING by Judy Blume will always be one of my favorites. It acknowledges the difficulties of being in that age range so perfectly!

Andrea Wang: I love the middle grade mysteries CHASING VERMEER and THE WRIGHT 3 by Blue Balliett. They’re a wonderful mix of school, friendships, art, and puzzles, with a touch of the paranormal thrown in. What more could you want?!

Elaine Vickers: My kids can never get enough of YELLOWBELLY AND PLUM GO TO SCHOOL by Nathan Hale. The story is great, the illustrations are awesome, and it offers a great opportunity to talk about common fears and also diversity. For older readers, it would be hard to beat WONDER.

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profile picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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Filed under Picture books, Uncategorized

What Success Looks Like: Lessons from Little League

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This spring, it felt like my life had been taken over by little league. I had a daughter playing softball and a son playing baseball and between the two of them, we seemed to do little else. (Practice, games, driving, washing uniforms, packing snacks, Gatorade runs, etc.)

Things got significantly more exciting at the end of the season, because,

1. My daughter’s team won the championship, and

2. My son finally got a chance to pitch.

Each of these gave me a picture of what success looks like that I’ve been pondering ever since. As long as we’re writing, we’ll be judging our writing and determining its success. Sometimes by valid measures, sometimes not. Sometimes by internal measures, sometimes external. Each of us has a picture of what success would look like–a finished manuscript, an agent, a book deal, a bestseller, a movie deal, a starred review, a National Book Award. The picture changes as we move forward, and sometimes the finish line seems to recede on the horizon. When can we truly count ourselves successful?

Here’s what I learned from each of these little league experiences.

Lesson #1: As I mentioned, my daughter’s team won the championship. I think the magnitude of this is best illustrated by a conversation I had with my husband the night before the tournament started.

Me: Do you think we need to keep Wednesday clear on the schedule?

Husband: [laughs] No.

Me: Yeah. You’re right. At this point, there is a 0% chance they’ll be in the championship game.

Yes, I said those actual words. I wasn’t being cruel or pessimistic, just as realistic as possible. The team had lost almost all of their games. They were having fun, and we absolutely considered it a successful season, but 0% seemed like an honest assessment of their chances of winning their first two games and making it to the championship. But, of course, they did, and we scrambled to get her to that championship game, which her team won soundly. This is how happy she was:

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So what’s the lesson in this? You may be far closer to success than you think. Even if you’re being absolutely practical (or even pessimistic) about your chances of success and determine the odds to be near zero, success may find you anyway. The key is to keep working. Show up for the game and do your best. That’s it.

Lesson #2: Ever since the Giants won the World Series in 2014 almost entirely on the pitching of Madison Bumgarner, my son has wanted to be a pitcher. And not in that “I want to be a pitcher and now I’m going to play video games” kind of way. He has pitched to his dad and his grandpa and his coaches and friends, and when nobody was there to catch the ball, he pitched to the back fence. He practiced almost every day, but for most of the season, there were better pitchers on the team and he played second base. But still, he pitched to people and walls and threw invisible baseballs in the kitchen.

And then his time came. He got to pitch a couple of innings. He walked the first batter, then pulled it together and shut down the next two innings, including four strikeouts. The next game, his coach let him pitch until he’d reached the league maximum pitch count. His coach later described the game as “by far the best pitching performance we’ve seen all season.”

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This one was a strike for sure. 🙂

Again, the lesson: You may be far closer to success than you think. Even if all your hard work seems to have gotten you nowhere, your big break (pun intended) may be in the very next inning. The key is to keep working. Show up for the game and do your best. That’s it.

His team didn’t win the championship. She practiced and never got to throw a pitch in a game. Neither reached every goal they set out to accomplish. But do all three of us consider these little league seasons successful? Absolutely. Because success depends on showing up and working hard and, yes, achievement, but it’s about perspective too. We have to allow ourselves to celebrate. We have to create room in our hearts to recognize the successes, and to set things aside to shoot for next season.

I believe in you, readers. Whatever your picture of success looks like, I would not put your odds at 0%, and clearly it wouldn’t matter if I did. If you show up and work hard, good things will happen, often when you least expect them. In the words of my wonderful grandmother, who never once wished me good luck:

“Luck has nothing to do with it. You’re ready! I wish you success!”

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profile picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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Filed under Dreams Come True, Inspiration, rejection and success, Satisfaction

Imbalance

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For anybody who’s working and alive, work-life balance is something that will require some thought. Since we’re mostly writers here, writing is the work I’m imagining on one side of the fulcrum. On the other side, everything else: family, friends, day job (if it’s not writing), exercise and health, tasks and chores, etc. If the balance tips too far one direction, we’re writing, but not living well. Too far the other and we’re not writing. And just when you think you’ve found that perfect balance, circumstances will shift, and you’ll have to adjust again.

I’ve spent the past weeks feeling terribly out of balance, for a host of minor reasons and two major reasons: a serious case of pneumonia, and moving out of the house we’ve lived in for the last ten years. (I always think I remember how emotionally and mentally and physically hard moving is, but I never do.)

I’ve been itching to write, but it hasn’t been happening. And when I don’t itch to write, I feel guilty, or like there’s something wrong. Writers gotta write, right?

Then a few days ago, a friend sent me a link to a post on Writer Unboxed that changed my perspective: Fallow Fields: An Argument for Letting Your Creativity Rest. The premise is that we actually hurt ourselves and our work if we try to harvest from the same field season after season. That periods of not writing are essential to produce our best work, and our best lives.

But not writing can be a scary thing. What happens when we a chunk of life drops on the scale? Have we sent our work flying off, never to return?

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Of course not. Our lives are the soil from which our work grows, and the more richly we live them, the richer the work will be. Those periods when fields lie fallow are not wasted. While I’ve not been writing, I’ve been listening to audiobooks as I pack (and now unpack) boxes. I’ve been writing a little in my journal. And most importantly, I’ve been truly immersed in the (fairly intense) physical and emotional experiences of this period in my life. All these things will make for better writing when I open up my manuscript next week.

Writers gotta write, friends. Except when they gotta just live. That’s okay too. 🙂

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profile picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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Filed under Guilt, Time Management, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Writing for Charity: Refugee Benefit Auction

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The kidlit community is incredibly talented and endlessly generous, and when those two forces come together, remarkable things happen. In 2012, authors, agents, and editors donated to KidLit Cares (led by Kate Messner and Joanne Levy) and raised over $60,000 for the Superstorm Sandy relief effort. I was fortunate enough to win a critique in that auction from author Julie Berry, and her feedback still guides my revision process to this day–and led to multiple offers of representation within a few months.

Now there’s another opportunity to join together and do something spectacular for people in need, with possible side effects that will greatly benefit your writing.

When authors Shannon Hale and Mette Ivie Harrison (who already run the Writing for Charity conference each spring) asked for donations to an auction to benefit refugees, the response was huge. The result: amazing. Click here (or the image above) to see all the awesome.

You could win countless critiques from top-notch authors, editors, and agents–including query and 10-page critiques from our own agent extraordinaire, Ammi-Joan Paquette. Drinks with Lemony Snicket. A writing retreat for you and four friends in a gorgeous mountain home, with visits from Shannon Hale and Ally Condie. You could be murdered in a book by international bestseller Dan Wells. The list goes on and on and on! There are plenty of budget-friendly items too. The author critiques in auctions like these are incredibly helpful and such a great value.

I’m thrilled to be part of this auction on both ends. I’ve donated a signed ARC of my debut, LIKE MAGIC, as well as a query and first chapter critique. But I’m definitely bidding too, and I’m sneaky and very competitive. You’ve been warned.

Of course, the very best part of all this is that 100% of the proceeds go to Lifting Hands International, a charity that gets life-saving supplies directly to refugee camps. So please, bid/give generously, and good luck! Unless, of course, you’re bidding against me. 🙂

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profile picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

 

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Filed under Helpful or Otherwise, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Strong Girls in Middle Grade

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This week we’re celebrating the release of Janet Fox‘s brilliant new middle grade novel, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle. The setting is haunting, the plot is tight and tense, the writing is gorgeous. (You don’t have to take my word for it–check out the incredible blurbs and three starred reviews at the bottom if this page!)

But perhaps my favorite thing about this book is the strength of its main character, Kat. She is clever and fierce and good, and she absolutely never gives up. She’s so unique and memorable, and she joins some pretty impressive ranks of strong girls in middle grade. Here are some of the Emus’ favorites:

penderwicksMegan Wagner Lloyd: There are so many fantastic girl protagonists in MG! A few wonderful ones that come to mind: I love the Penderwick sisters (in the Penderwick series by Jeanne Birdsall) for their determination and the way they embrace each sister’s uniqueness. I love Pacy (in The Year of the Dog series by Grace Lin) for her creativity, her yearning, and the way she is always puzzling out the different things that make her Pacy. I love Ellie (in The Fourteeth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm) for her curiosity, openness, and kindness. I’ll stop there (I could go on for ages!).

Darcey Rosenblatt: Harriet the Spy is certainly a fav, but meg in A Wrinkle in Time is my all time favorite and sort of saved my life because she was nerdy and under appreciated but turned out to kind of save the world!!

Katie Slivensky: Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson. Smart, quick–that girl has her act together. Which is incredibly necessary, because she’s in a series with a monster attack every other page.

juniperLaurie Thompson: Princess Juniper of the Hourglass, because she is oh so real and has to learn as she goes, mistakes and all! 🙂

Hayley Barrett: Ada in The War That Saved My Life.

Sarvinder Naberhaus: I always liked Laura Ingalls Wilder because she wasn’t a goody-two-shoes like her sister Mary.

Elly Swartz: I loved Rose in Rain Reign by Ann Martin. She stays true to who she is, and is a take-charge kind of girl.

Carole Gerber: I like Meg in Little Women. Shows how “up” I am on current MG titles! Yay for Louisa May Alcott, one of the first to write about strong girls.

lizziebrightMylisa Larsen: Oh, there are so many that I love. Delphine from P.S. Be Eleven (and surrounding books in that series.) Odge from The Secret of Platform 13 (though she is technically a hag not a girl but she reads as middle grade girl to me.) Igraine the Brave. Lizzie Bright. The Penderwick sisters. Aerin from The Hero and the Crown. Vida Wojciehowski (“My public calls me Velveeta.”) from Bluefish. I adore Vida Wojciehowski. Just as I loved Jo March with every fiber of my 14 year old heart when I first met her. My daughter is sitting here and her current picks are Tamora Pierce’s Alanna and Varian Johnson’s Gaby de la Cruz.

Andrea Wang: I love Hermione from the Harry Potter series. She’s unabashedly brainy, a steadfast friend, and always prepared. I covet her little beaded handbag with the Undetectable Extension Charm on it.

Jason Gallaher: A new favorite of mine is Mya Tibbs from Crystal Allen’s The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown. Mya has personality for days! She’s a cowgirl loving, taradiddle telling, hogtying practicing spitfire who isn’t afraid to face life’s challenges head on.

Thank you, Emus! And thank you, Janet, for giving us another strong middle grade girl to read about and root for!

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Filed under Book Launch, Characters, Launch, Uncategorized

Interview with Pat Zietlow Miller

Today on the blog we welcome fellow EMLA author Pat Zietlow Miller, whose latest picture book, THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE, was released last week. Pat is one of my picture book heroes–so kind, smart, talented, and incredibly hard working. She writes those rare picture books that have incredible amounts of appeal for both kids and parents. (Exhibit A: I got a copy of this book to review and left it on my kitchen table, and sure enough, by the time I got home from work, all my kids had read it already and wanted more. And I was happy to read it multiple times that night!) She’s also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Golden Kite, Charlotte Zoltow Honor, and Ezra Jack Keats Honor. (She’s amazing, folks.)

Without further ado, here’s what Pat had to say about this beautiful book:

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EV: I know you’ve gone into detail about your revision process for this book elsewhere, but are there any other behind-the-scenes stories you can share about this book?

PZM: TheWilma_Rudolph_(1960) research for this book was really fun. Early versions featured double-dutch jump-roping, so I watched a lot of YouTube videos about it. Then, when Wilma Rudolph made an appearance, I watched more videos, read all the biographies I could find plus her autobiography and did a lot of website searching.

My first real job was as a newspaper reporter, and it was kind of like doing that again. I liked gathering all the facts and figuring out how to use them.

EV: You’ve already developed such a beautiful backlist and I know you have more books under contract. What is special about this book that will always make it stand out for you?
PZM: This is the first historical fiction book that I’ve written. It stands out to me because I think Wilma Rudolph’s story is one everyone should know. As I’ve tal631px-Wilma_Rudolphked with other people about the book, I’ve been surprised how many folks don’t know who Wilma Rudolph was. So I’m glad I was able to make it an element of my book.

I did a lot of research as I worked on this book, and learned more about Wilma than I had known before. I was able to put some of that information into an author’s note that I hope readers find as interesting as I do.

Finish this sentence: My favorite thing about the illustrations for THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE is . . .

PZM: The faces of the characters.

Frank Morrison put such a lot of emotion in every look the girls give each other. He tells a whole story just by their expressions. He made Alta and Charmaine real. I adore his work.

EV: Finish this sentence: The perfect reader for this book would be …

PZM: Any kid who has ever dreamed of being the best as something.

EV: As a mom of two tough daughters, one of my favorite things about this book is the strong, confident characters. What do you love most about these girls? And/or who are some of your favorite kidlit/PB characters?

PZM: I like how Alta and Charmaine are confident in their own abilities and don’t downplay their skills to keep the peace. But I also like how they are open enough to change their mind about each other and become friends.

And, oh wow. Favorite picture book characters. Here we go:

  • Olivia the pig for her unshakeable confidence and unbridled imagination.
  • The young Patricia Polacco in stories written by the grown-up Patricia Polacco like THE JUNKYARD WONDERS, THANK YOU MR. FALKER and CHICKEN SUNDAY. Everything she creates is perfect.
  • Henrietta of Mary Amato’s THE CHICKEN OF THE FAMILY for her willingness to believe the unbelievable and for her ability to eventually turn the tables on her annoying older sisters.
  • The determined narrator of Janice N. Harrington’s THE CHICKEN-CHASING QUEEN OF LAMAR COUNTY who never loses sight of her goal.

I’m sensing a chicken theme here, which I did not intend, so I will add Nadine the cow from Jill Esbaum’s I AM COW, HEAR ME MOO! Even when Nadine’s bragging gets her into trouble, she rises to the occasion and ends up learning new things about herself.

EV: Since this blog is grounded in the debut author experience, can you give any advice to writers who are still in the pre-publication part of the journey? What has surprised you most and/or what do you wish you’d known?

pzmPZM: I wish I had known – or maybe accepted – that there’s a limit to what you can control. I’m the kind of person who likes to make lists and check things off and who clings to the nice-but-untrue illusion that if I work hard enough and plan well enough, I can determine my own destiny.

That’s true to a point. But there’s so much in publishing you can’t control. Like what, you ask? Hmmm. Let’s see. Like:

  • What reviewers write.
  • How well your book sells.
  • How much marketing and publicity support it gets.
  • What else is released at the same time as your book.
  • Whether your editor or agent stays in publishing or pursues other opportunities.

So my advice would be to work your hardest to do your part of the job – the writing – as best you can. Also, make every effort to be professional and conscientious and responsible when you interact with editors and agents. And then, try to let the rest go.


View More: http://morgansladephotography.pass.us/vickersfamily

Elaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

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The Emus’ Favorite Reads of 2015

We’re drawing to the close of 2015, and it’s been another great year of writing and reading for the Emus! Here are some of the titles we adored most this year:

PICTURE BOOKS

archieDebbi Michiko Florence: BUNNIES by Kevan Atteberry. Laugh out loud funny and cute!bunnies

Jason Gallaher: For an Antarctic, Literally Laughing Out Loud PB moment, everyone should read ARCHIE THE DAREDEVIL PENGUIN by Andy Rash. These are the most hysterical penguins you’ll ever see!

Elaine Vickers: My kids and I fell absolutely in love with two Pat Zietlow Miller titles this year: WHEREVER YOU GO and SHARING THE BREAD. Gorgeous and touching for grownups, and tons of kid appeal too.

MIDDLE GRADE AND CHAPTER BOOKS

Debbi Michikechoo Florence: For middle grade, GOODBYE STRANGER by Rebecca Stead, A HANDFUL OF STARS by Cynthia Lord – both are touching and sweet with characters you ache for. For chapter books, CLEO EDISON OLIVER, PLAYGROUND MILLIONAIRE by Sundee Frazier (but it’s not out till January).

Elly Schwartz: THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander and RAIN REIGN by Ann M. Martin. Loved both. PAPER THINGS by Jennifer Jacobson. EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS by Deborah Wiles (not new in 2015, but new to me), and THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE by our own Janet Fox (coming in March!)moonpenny

Hayley Barrett: K.A. Holt’s HOUSE ARREST is dazzling, and I loved Natalie Llyod’s A SNICKER OF MAGIC.

Tamara Ellis SmithECHO by Pam Muñoz Ryan and CRENSHAW by Katharine Applegate.

Sarvinder NaberhausFISH IN A TREE by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Jennifer Chambliss BertmanI bought Steve Sheinken’s MOST DANGEROUS as a Christmas gift, but couldn’t resist reading it first myself. It’s so good , I’m now gifting it to two people instead of just the one, and I’m keeping the original copy I bought for myself. Another favorite was MOONPENNY ISLAND by Tricia Springstubb. Beautiful writing.

YOUNG ADULT

Janet FoxdeathMartha Brockenbrough’s THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH was a favorite, and Laura Ruby’s BONE GAP!

Elaine Vickers: CHALLENGER DEEP by Neal Shusterman and CALVIN by Martine Leavitt were both thoughtful and powerful novels about mental
illness that were so beautifully written.

Tamara Ellis Smith: THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough, and DIRT BIKES, DRONES, AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY by Conrad Wesselhoeftsimon

Elly Schwartz: FAT ANGIE by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Jason Gallaher: The book that blew me away this year was Becky Albertalli’s SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. This is the kind of book that scared-to-come-out 15-year-old me would have felt so comforted and reassured and Holy-Moly-I’m-Not-Alone to have read. Plus, it’s got one of the cutest YA couples ever!

Thanks for participating, Emus! And readers, what were your favorite books of 2015?

 

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